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News

Elgar: 'Not nice to see our coaches get lambasted for things'

"I think sometimes they put in so much work, it gets unnoticed, and it gets watered down by media."

Dean Elgar - "From a players' point of view, we maybe have to say, you know what, we back our coaches"  •  PCB

Dean Elgar - "From a players' point of view, we maybe have to say, you know what, we back our coaches"  •  PCB

Dean Elgar, South Africa's Test captain, has stood up for the team's coaches and management, whom he believes have not received the backing they deserve. Elgar's comments come in the wake of the decision by CSA to launch a formal inquiry into the conduct of Graeme Smith, South Africa's director of cricket, and Mark Boucher, their head coach, after a report by the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) commission implicated both - and others including former captain AB de Villiers - of unfairly discriminating against players on the basis of race.
The independent inquiry is set to take place in early 2022. Smith and Boucher will remain in their roles for now, and will carry out their duties during the home series against India, which begins with the first Test in Centurion on Boxing Day.
While addressing a pre-series press conference, Elgar made mention of the difficult period South African cricket has endured over recent months. Asked what the toughest thing about this period had been, from a players' perspective, Elgar responded with his comment about the coaches not being adequately backed.
"It's a tough one," Elgar said. "We've had so many different administrators that we don't even know who's there now. I think maybe backing has been something that's been pretty tough, especially backing with regards to our coaches and our team management. I don't think we've received a lot of good stuff around that.
"From a players' point of view, we maybe have to say, you know what, we back our coaches, we back our management, we need to give them a lot of love. I think sometimes they put in so much work, it gets unnoticed, and it gets watered down by media, and it gets watered down by articles, and I think that's the biggest thing, because I know what they do behind the scenes, and for me that speaks volumes when it comes to our environment.
"One of the biggest things is that we haven't had a lot of stability from an administrative point of view, and hopefully sooner than later there's a lot more stability that comes within Cricket South Africa. But yeah, it's not nice to see our coaches get lambasted for things, and I know the work they're putting in behind the scenes, which no one else sees. Only us as the players group - we notice that and we see that and we're extremely grateful for the hard work that they put in."
Elgar did not get a chance to elaborate on what specific criticisms of the coaches he was referring to.
The most serious charges against Boucher date back to his playing days, and the use of a racist nickname by him and other players for Paul Adams, a team-mate of colour. While Boucher apologised for this in a submission to the SJN, the report suggested that his response revealed a "lack of sensitivity and understanding of the racist undertones" of his comments, and that he is "apathetic towards diversity and transformation."
Smith, meanwhile, was South Africa's captain when Thami Tsolekile - who had been selected as Boucher's long-term replacement as wicketkeeper - was overlooked in favour of de Villiers taking on the role. According to the SJN report, "CSA, Mr Graeme Smith and some selectors at the time really failed Mr Tsolekile and many black players of this time in many ways."
Apart from the charges of prejudicial conduct, another major talking point of the SJN hearing was the appointments of Smith and Boucher during the tenure of Jacques Faul as interim CEO following the suspension of Thabang Moroe. Faul conceded in his testimony at the hearing that the optics of a white CEO appointing a slew of high-profile white men to senior positions "were totally wrong", and that he did not anticipate that "we would be viewed as a white takeover".
The inquiry aside, South African cricket has also had to deal with the cricketing fallout of the Omicron strain of Covid-19 - with the first-class domestic tournament stalled, the Mzansi Super League cancelled, and the upcoming Test series forced behind closed doors. Elgar said the team's on-field performances wouldn't be affected by any of this.
"What happens off the field, for me, is irrelevant now," he said. "Us as a players' unit, we've been through such crappy times that we've actually formulated such a good bond within our group, and for me it's not an excuse for us to use.
"If we were in the first month of all these bad kind of scenarios, then it might be that, but we've been there, and I think we've formulated something that works for us. I referred to us as the players' group - we're extremely strong, our culture's been tested and pushed to levels that I didn't think it would be pushed to in my short term of being captain, and I think we've come out on top of it.
"It's all about the learning processes behind all that. We must always be mindful that even if things are bad off the field, we can't use it as a cop-out for us. We're a professional team, we're professional players, we want to strive to areas still with regards to where we want to go as a team. We want to go up the rankings system still, and that's our process going forward. We focus on cricket, and hopefully cricket will look after us."